Leaders are readers; readers of books on organizational management and leadership. If you are interested in setting up your organization to scale, then Google might be a good place to learn from. Tech companies are strange leadership examples, though, because they are lead by geniuses. Not all large organization leaders in the C-suites are smart (no sarcasm intended), many manage with hard work and learned leadership skills. Large successful tech companies generally have a genius founder who is the leader by nature of being the founder. They scale when the genius is also socially intelligent and can lead the organization in the implementation and demonstrative capability of the tech.
So, as a pastor, reading a book on the organization and administration of a super sized tech company isn’t a 1:1 direct application, but there are a lot of principles of operation, recruiting and management that can be useful. This is especially true for a church that wants to reach and disciple tech natives. For me, the biggest learning from this book for churches will be how to move faster (while still being wise). We live in a time when culture is speeding up exponentially and the church (universal) has a well-earned reputation for slowing things down… exponentially. While the church doesn’t need to speed up, it can have a significant impact if it learns to relate to a faster world with the timeless gospel.
Here’s some great quotes for you to cut and paste into your own Google doc…
- from the foreword by Google cofounder and CEO Larry Page, “Over time I’ve learned, surprisingly, that it’s tremendously hard to get teams to be super ambitious. It turns out most people haven’t been educated in this kind of moonshot thinking.”
- p.5, “But while most companies say that their employees are everything, Larry and Sergey actually ran the company that way…They felt that attracting and leading the very best engineers was the only way for Google to thrive and achieve its lofty ambitions.”
- p.73, “If we measured success by number of users, we could (and did) trick ourselves into believing that the products were successful. Sometimes they weren’t, though; momentum for many of these offerings flat-out stalled.”
- p.77, “(Henry Ford, ‘If I had listened to customers, I would have gone out looking for faster horses.’)”
- p.190, “Clean out your inbox constantly…Remember the old OHIO acronym: Only Hold It Once.”
- p.195, “Board members want to talk about strategy and products, not governance and lawsuits. (If this isn’t true, get new board members.)”
- p.239, “Management’s job is not to mitigate risks or prevent failures, but to create an environment resilient enough to take on those risks and tolerate the inevitable missteps.”
Two things: If I have ever been guilty of using a click bait blog post title, this is it. And, if you ever want to get weird looks at starbucks, bring this book to read with your Strawberry Acai Tea.
William Webb, who is a Seminary professor in Ontario, Canada, wrote the book, Slaves, Women and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis, as development of what he has called the Redemptive Movement Hermeneutic. It is, in brief, a way of reading and studying the Bible in the context of God’s redemptive work and relationship with mankind and it’s ultimate goal. The biblical treatment of slavery, women’s rights and homosexuality is in depth and extremely complicated by the cultural context contemporary to the writing of the bible and God’s willingness to speak into and through particular times and people.
In the end, Webb shows how, through the arc of the Scripture, the Bible is progressively eliminating slavery, increasing gender equality (though he allows for a biblical ‘soft patriarchy’) and remaining consistent in it’s regard to homosexuality. The book does a tremendous job at avoiding the normal emotions and hostility surrounding these issues. The cost, however, is that the book is highly technical and a complicated read. Webb explores the entirety of the Bible as it speaks to these three issues and does not leave anything out. For most people, this will become an all year kind of book.
If you are interested in these areas, though, I would suggest spending some time on a google search for the Redemptive Movement Hermeneutic. It’s how I read the Bible, and I think it’s how you should too! Plus, he finishes the book with a chapter called, “What if I am wrong?”, how can you not love a theology book that actually considers the frailty of the author!?!
Here’s the quotes for today:
- p.21, “Most of us are oblivious to the culture around us. Like the air that we breathe, it is invisible and we simply take it for granted… What awakens us to culture is contrast.”
- p. 22, “It is necessary for Christians to challenge their culture where it departs from kingdom values; it is equally necessary for them to identify with their culture on all other matters.”
- p.30, “A sense of the biblical or redemptive spirit can be obtained by listening to how texts compare to the broader cultural milieu within the development of the canon.”
- p.37, “One might be able to persuade a modern congregation into believing that employees should ‘obey’ and ‘submit to’ their employers based upon the slavery texts. This happens all the time. But the outcome reflects a tragic misunderstanding of Scripture. The rest of the slavery material, beyond the obey/submit instructions, is often left at arm’s length and simply not applied.”
- p.61, “Jesus’ development of a multilevel ethic in Matthew 19 provides helpful insight into at least three factors that influence the formulation of the biblical message: the hardness of people’s hearts, creative expectations and kingdom service.”
- p.73, “A component of a text may be culturally bound if Scripture modifies the original cultural norms in such a way that suggests further movement is possible and even advantageous in a subsequent culture.”
- p.117, “Interestingly, with the animals an explicit statement of hierarchy followed by naming is pre-Fall; with woman the explicit statement of hierarcy and personal naming are ultimately post-Fall. It is a rather curious feature of the text that the man’s name (Gen 1:26, 27, 2:7) does not change after the Fall (he retains his original name), whereas the woman is given a new name. In fact, the names by which we most commonly remember and retell the Eden story today are ‘Adam and Eve.’ Yet, one is pre-Fall and one is post-Fall.”
- p.201, “When a New Testament text repeals and Old Testament practice, it is almost a certain indication of cultural-component status. In other words, continuity between the Testaments provides inconclusive results, whereas discontinuity offers reasonably conclusive results.”
Louie Giglio is a pastor, massive event speaker and owns a record label. He started an “insta-mega” church in Atlanta with thousands of young people who came to his Passion events and his world-famous worship leaders. It’s a model all church planters can be jealous of.
He has written a few books and I picked this one up because I heard a podcast with Giglio about his personal struggles under the pressure and conviction of his calling and his incredible success. Any time a leader is honest about the hard stuff, I want to give him my 10 bucks and hear his story.
The personal story is really helpful, but it is just like the first chapter only. For reals – the whole rest of the book doesn’t even mention it. It’s actually an incredible first chapter and then 11 generic sermons made into book chapters. I think the book was intended for a different audience than me, so people who don’t feel like God can still work in their life probably love the whole book, but it wasn’t what I was looking for.
If you are a pastor/leader of something significant – and by that I am not referring to size, church significance has nothing to do with church size – then I would recommend reading the first chapter for free through amazon. It’s incredible, encouraging and a blessing all the way through.
If you are struggling to believe that God can work a miracle in your life and bring you back to Himself and his dreams for your life – buy the book and start on chapter two. I think it will stir hope and encouragement in you and, like we always need to pray to Jesus, ‘help me with my unbelief.’
I’m not going to post quotes like I usually do. It’s not really that kind of writing – and the quotes I did underline were referring to questions I want to ponder that I think will turn into material for sermons 🙂
Servant leadership is the goal for those who serve in Christian organizations and churches. We believe that serving the least of these is the way of Jesus. We desire to have less of ourselves and more of God working in and through us. It’s a narrow way and a difficult way to live.
The difficulty increases when a person has obvious, strong and charismatic gifts of leadership. Those who are created to lead others (from the front) can end up thinking their gifts are less desirable, and attempt to downplay their abilities so that they can stay out of sight. The problem is that their God-given influence is negated from being a positive contribution to the kingdom of God.
Enter MaryKate Morse, professor at George Fox Seminary, who has written, “Making Room for Leadership: Power, Space and Influence.” In this relatively short book, Morse contends that power can be used for God’s glory and, in fact, should be. The social and physical influences of your position, gifts and presence are seen, by Morse, as gifts from God and can be used for His glory.
Much of the criticism of large and charismatic leaders comes from their up-front ways and strong influence being seen as overpowering and pushing out the Spirit. To be sure, some of the criticism of major Christian pastors comes from insecure pastors of smaller churches and since 60% of churches in USAmerica are under 100 people, that’s a large and noisy group. The claim most often heard is that they will not be able to handle the temptation that comes with fame and so they should avoid it at all costs. For me, this reasoning is faulty. Would we similarly say all people should avoid any success because success only sets us up for more failure (cue Latrell Sprewell)? Of course not – but in Christian leadership circles it’s acceptable to give a negative assessment of a person who is a dynamic and even famous leader/pastor just because of their success and influence.
Morse’s book actually takes a biblical and social look at power and it’s use in our lives. She considers Jesus’ own use of presence and power in his ministry and describes a way forward for gifted Christian leaders. There is even a couple practical chapters for emerging leaders navigating large meetings that include ways of speaking and even strategic places to sit around a board room table.
In her own words, here’s what you need to know:
- p.17, “When I felt powerless, I wondered if that was how to be a servant. Then when I felt powerful, I struggled with the impact I had on playing the game and whether or not that impact was Christlike.// I couldn’t find the balance between being myself while holding Christ at the center and taking up space to accomplish God’s purposes.”
- p.26, “[People in the organization] were comfortable with his [domineering] style because it created a sense of security among them.”
- p.55, (about Luke 7) “A true prophet would not contaminate himself by allowing a woman to touch him in public. Simon’s inward attitude about Jesus might suggest his uncertainty on how to proceed with the meal because of the embarrassing event occurring in his house.”
- p.58, “Power is a gift. Powerlessness is not a virtue; rather, using power to help the powerless is.”
- p.85, “charismatic leaders influence through emotional appeals based in self-confidence that stems from an unshakable conviction in the rightness, even righteousness, of their beliefs… Charismatic leaders create meaning for others.”
- p.125, “Even thought we value servant leadership, which has a lot to do with the use of power, we usually aren’t mindful of the stewardship of power. We tend to equate servant leadership with spiritual, internal character qualities manifested in the leader’s public behaviors… Everything about the leader, from the first hellow to the final decision, is a reflection of his or her stewardship of power – either for service or personal gain.”
I tagged along last fall to a Hillsong worship event because I heard Brian Houston was going to be preaching at the event also. My memory from the event is a complete lack of parking so I dropped off my van full of people and drove up a Portland sized hill to park and walk down to the concert. When I got down there, I realized I left my ticket in the car, so I walked back up the hill, got my ticket and walked back down again. Getting to the church that was hosting I entered and some security person tried to scold me for coming in the wrong door, but I kept walking and made the educated guess that the church security at a worship concert didn’t want to take down a giant Canadian with burning thighs. Thankfully, I was correct.
The night was outstanding all the way through and Brian Houston gave a really personal and inspiring teaching. At the event I learned that the price of admission included a copy of Houston’s newest book, Live Love Lead: Your Best is Yet to Come. Never one to turn away a free book, I actually decided to get it into my reading schedule. The book tells a lot of the Houston’s story of starting in ministry, Hillsong church taking off and gaining international influence and the personal struggles that they faced along the way. The honesty, openness and humility that Brian Houston gives is remarkable. It is easy to trust an author who openly writes of personal mistakes, especially ones that are related to often heard criticisms of their ministry. While it is much heavier on inspiration than on methods and strategies; there are a lot of practical things that you can implement in your own life to grow in life and leadership and actually see better years ahead.
Here’s some highlights from Live, Love, Lead:
- p.34, “Looking at yourself against the size of your dream can quickly become more than anyone can handle. The truth is, the plans God has for you are always bigger than you are, and they are never going to be something you can pull off easily and in your own strength.”
- p.63, “I am not called to plant churches everywhere, but where we do, my hope and prayer is that we can build significant churches whose impact for the Cause of Christ spreads far beyond their own walls and welcomes everyone.”
- p.82, “With growth came a level of scrutiny that we had never experienced before. I felt removed from my life, from the passion and purpose that usually kept me eager to get out of bed in the morning and greet the day ahead. I was going through the motions, often lost in my thoughts, uncertain how to regain my joy and peace.”
- p.107, “Bobbie and I always aspired to build a church that was youthful in spirit, generous at heart, faith filled in confession, loving in nature, and inclusive in expression.”
Ben Witherington is a Bible professor at Asbury Seminary and writes incredibly intelligent books and commentaries that have helped me enormously. This book I got through an IVP book club subscription is a fiction novella (a word I stole off the back cover) about living in Corinth in the middle of the first century. It gives the reader an inside look at the culture in which Paul planted the gospel. The church at Corinth was the most adventurous of all the churches Paul began. Their struggles in adopting to life in Christ were definitely firsts and presented their leaders with brand-new, first time ever kinds of problems. I feel like a lot of pastors read 1 and 2 Corinthians just to remind themselves that problems people face today are not the worst thing ever and that Jesus is faithful to work.
The story itself isn’t exactly riveting, it’s much more like a canvas used to display the culture in which the story takes place. Like any recent Cowboys season in Jerry’s new stadium, the setting of the story is better than the story itself. So, if you are looking for a Bible-era story that is going to pull you in, you’d be better off reading Ann Rice (or just watch the movie). I would, however, suggest this as an accessible way for people to learn more about the culture around the very early church. It’s not overly academic and you will learn without the pain that we have come to associate with learning.
Here’s some fast quotes that painlessly taught me some more:
- p.7, “Estimates suggest that up to half the population of Rome, the Eternal City, were slaves…some of the most highly educated and brilliant persons of the Roman Empire, and some of its best businessmen, were or had been slaves.”
- p.15, “In 146 BC the Roman general Mummius destroyed the ancient city of Corinth, leaving only the ancient temple of Apollo standing.”
- p.39, “Most patron-client relationships were euphemistically called friendships (amicitia). And this is apparently one reason Paul largely avoids using such language in his letters. It would have signaled that Paul and his converts were in a patron-client relationship.”
- p.158, “All of this raises the interesting question of how a high-status Christian like Erastos managed to function, including helping maintain pagan temples, all the while keeping his new faith.”
In Christmas of 2011, I began a 114 sermon series for The Grove. That’s 110 more sermons that I was told should be in a series. Yesterday, we said, to irreverently quote Jesus, ‘It is finished.’
At the end of things we did about 96 sermons in Matthew, our church grew in its discipleship and we are primed for an amazing season ahead.
For me personally, I am moving a load of my study books from the shelf next to my desk to the shelf in the library. It’s going to be so weird to not hear from and read these writers, who have been like a second voice to what I have been saying for almost four years.
I figured it would be good, since I once made a post about what books I was going to be using, to make a post about what books I did use. Maybe this will be helpful to someone else who likes doing 100 sermon long series.
- ESV Study Bible: I did all my scripture outlines (where I usually write out the entire passage) from this. Then I checked the study notes. They are good, plenty of helpful info. They do make some assumptions that will help their positions so you have to be sure to check other opinions.
- the Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern: Written by a messianic Jewish man, and not a former NBA commish, this is a great commentary for understanding some of the culture surrounding the New Testament and to place emphasis in a place that is true to the original intentions of authors.
- Jesus the Jewish Theologian by Brad Young: This book isn’t really a commentary at all, but it did have an extensive Scriptural index to help locate useful information related to the text I would be preaching. Unfortunately, this book wasn’t as helpful as I had hoped, which is probably more about how I wanted to use it, and not a judgment on the book itself. I will likely be putting it on the ‘to read’ shelf to go through it all later.
- The Gospel According to Matthew by Leon Morris (Pillar NT Commentary Series): This commentary has been really useful for me as a preacher to make sure I am true to the original texts, but not much of the material was useful in the pulpit. It was definitely useful to make sure what I did preach was correct, but it has such a depth that it puts it out of reach for most readers (on the back cover it actually says it is for ‘serious readers of the Bible’ – like ‘serious’ is a special badge of honor 🙂
- Matthew by Stanley Hauerwas (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible Series): This book is like a sunning narrative commentary with a pastoral view. Hauerwaus consistently gives fresh viewpoints. He doesn’t cover every single detail, but the areas he does cover are really interesting and novel.
- Matthew for Everyone (Volumes I & II) by N.T. Wright: These two books are amazingly practical. Wright has a unique talent to take the complicated and challenging and make it simple but even more challenging to real life. These books are thin and easy to read making them really accessible. These are amazing commentary style books for anyone looking to give in depth Bible study a go.
- Matthew by Daniel J. Harrington (Sacra Pagina Series): Harrington writes from a Catholic perspective which gives another fresh perspective from the majority of protestant commentaries. It deals with every single verse, giving light background information and a couple pages of commentary on each section. The format is also very easy to navigate so it became a go to text.
- The Gospel of Matthew by Craig S. Keener (Eerdmans’ Socio-Rhetorical Commentary): This commentary, and the whole series, are favorites of mine. They deal with so much detail and cultural context, while managing deep and complicated issues in a way that makes it helpful for readers and teachers. It always has sidebars to give in depth understanding of people and systems of the time that make extra research a breeze.
- The Gospel of Matthew by R.T. France (The New International Commentary on the NT Series): By far the best word by word commentary that is available on the book of Matthew. If I read this one first I would then read it again in a couple other books because if they didn’t have any idea what to write, the other authors basically copied France. So, this one is basically indispensable and incredibly helpful. Not everything I learned from this commentary made it into a sermon, but it definitely helped to make sure the things I was going to speak about where accurate and true.
- Matthew by Michael J. Wilkins (The NIV Application Commentary Series): I like the NIV application series for being so practical and having ready made applications. This one wasn’t as useful for me as others from this series have been. It could be the way that Matthew is written or it could just be one that didn’t have much insight for me. I tended to not find this commentary as helpful for me, but others might like it.